Given that I have written absolutely nothing since September, it feels like posting here is long overdue. The last quarter of the year included our annual apple picking adventure, ice cream consumption, a campfire or two, football season (complete with a baby in a Seahawks jersey), various outings to the local fair, farms, and walking trails, trips to Maine and Washington, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. All of those things deserve their own blog installments, but since ain’t nobody got time for that, I will summarize: family, friends, food, and fun. I could never pass up a good bout of alliteration.
And NOW, since the end of the year is mere minutes away, it’s time for a Best of 2018 recap! Last year’s recap was basically all about Elise, but I think this year we’ll branch out a bit more. Maybe. Hopefully. We’ll see. So without further ado…
This year we traveled a few places, including Vermont, New York City, Maine, Washington, Basel, and Paris. Given my travel preferences, Europe almost always gains an edge over domestic travel, and Paris both a) involves speaking French, b) has amazing food, and c) is not as expensive as Basel, so that was an easy win. Take me back, please!
I plan to overuse all 100ish versions of this picture in perpetuity.
This podcast has been around for ages but I just discovered it this month. But I’ve been making up for lost time and have listened to multiple episodes per day, so I feel like I can give you this recommendation with some authority. Even if only a little bit. Stuff You Missed in History Class covers all types of topics throughout history, ranging from the Emu War of 1932 to the House of Worth and the Birth of Haute Couture. The episodes are typically under 30 minutes, come out multiple times per week, and unless the topic itself is grim, doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable listening with Elise in the car. I may change that last evaluation when she becomes more familiar with terms like “born out of wedlock” and “beheaded,” but for now, I think we’re in the clear.
I actually read more than I expected to this year, and while I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that a few of my reading selections were celebrity biographies (here’s looking at you, Chip and Joanna), I read some quality literature as well. This is a hard one to pick a single favorite, because I read across a bunch of genres. So here are a few good book recommendations:
Fantasy: The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker
Historical Fiction: Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
Non Fiction: Educated, by Tara Westover
Fluff Read: The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
My favorite social media app will probably always be Instagram, so there isn’t much to say about that. However, I love love love Paprika, which is a recipe organization app. If you find a recipe online, you can download it, categorize it, rate it, and use it off-line. In addition, there’s a meal planning component, so you can put your recipes on a calendar. THEN, you can make your grocery list with the click of a button, deselecting any ingredients you already have before finalizing your list. It’s the best! I love it so much that I bought it for my phone and my computer.
Best Coffee Shop
After four and a half years in the area, we’re finally exploring the towns surrounding us rather than driving an extra 10 to 15 minutes to get to places we already knew. I’m happy to report that while our town itself doesn’t have a coffee shop, Battle Grounds Coffee Co. in Haverhill is a great spot with tasty food and drinks nearby. I don’t typically think of Haverhill as a Location, but the coffee shop is well worth the trip. Haverhill is also home to both mine and Elise’s doctor’s office, so maybe at some point we’ll make a habit of frequenting the place. Oh, and I couldn’t leave the coffee shop without a hot chocolate shot.
Best Free Kid’s Outing
With a toddler who doesn’t love her car seat, these two activities are very, very local. But we really loved going to our local part and pond this summer and splashing around in the shallow water. It’s close enough to walk (although the walk can be and/or was just a tad brutal on a really hot day), is right beside the (really delicious!) bagel shop in town, and has an ice cream stand on the premises.
However, summer weather doesn’t last too long around these here parts, but thankfully we’ve got farms with animals to keep us going when the pond isn’t on the table for the day. Both Smolak Farms and Brooksby Farm have a fun collection of animals. And, if you want to make it just a little less free, Smolak Farms has cider donuts, and Brooksby Farm has ice cream cones full of animal grain to offer the creatures for about fifty cents. Elise particularly enjoyed watching me feed it to the pigs, sheep, and emu.
Since we’re on the topic of farms, I might as well throw in the best all-around farm. I mentioned it before in the blueberry picking post, but without question, the best farm in this region is Cider Hill Farm. They have THE BEST cider donuts, the best pick-your-own fruit options, good prices on said fruit, and more animals. What’s not to love? They even have wagons big enough to fit three babies and three bags of apples!
Best New (to me) Recipe
It turned out that I didn’t actually need to hit up a farm to get my apple cider donut fix for the year. You can make them at home and they are delicious. Or, due to the name of the blog from which the recipe came, damn delicious. For those of you that believe you need special equipment to deep fry (like I formerly did!), I am happy to report that you can easily do it in a big soup pot with a metal spatula or slotted spoon. I’ve decided that making these will be an annual tradition on the first day of fall every year.
Best Baby Travel Hack
You didn’t think you could get through a blog post of mine without travel info, did you? This year, we needed to travel cross country (by air) with Elise’s gargantuan convertible car seat. I didn’t want to check an extra thing and I also didn’t want to tote the car seat, a stroller, a baby carrier, all our luggage, and a toddler through the airport. While you can buy a car seat travel cart for what seems like a ridiculously overpriced amount, all you really need is a rolling suitcase with an extendable handle, a lashing strap on the shorter side, and a substantial carabiner. Voila! A DIY car seat/stroller/rolling bag. When you roll the suitcase, the car seat tips back and supports itself on the frame of the bag so that it doesn’t scrape the ground.
Believe it or not, in spite of her expression in that picture, she did like it.
Best Baby Product
Can I even call this a “baby” product now, since my baby is much more of a toddler than an actual baby? The Hatch Rest sound machine/wake up light seems to have played a huge role in getting Elise to sleep better. She’s finally sleeping through the night on a more consistent basis, and the tide really started turning with the introduction of the Hatch. I’m counting on using it down the road as well, when the wake up light is amore comprehensible idea.
Well, considering 2018 officially ended while I was writing this, I should take a cue from the picture of Elise above and head to bed myself. Happy New Year, friends! Give me all your favorite-things recommendations so I can try them all and put them in my 2019 best list!